SAN DIEGO, CA. --The upcoming Challenge Air for Kids & Friends Inc. will provide free airplane rides over areas of the county to 125 children and youth with special needs, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 27. The short flights, conducted voluntarily by up to 25 private FAA-licensed pilots, will make roundtrips from Brown Field throughout the day.
The event is offered at no cost to special-needs children and young adults 7 to 21 years of age.
Challenge Air is a national non-profit organization established in 1993. As a community-driven program, it has provided more than 30,000 special-needs kids and teens aviation experiences in multiple cities, affording some of them the opportunity to co-pilot the airplanes.
San Diego event coordinator Harley Perry has been affiliated with the event locally for several years by overseeing committees that recruit pilots, ground crews and food vendors. He also assists in the enrollment of volunteers with the support of local Optimist Clubs and the San Diego chapter of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
In addition, the hangar space is donated by San Diego Jet Center.
“The event is a year in the making,” says Perry, whose family-owned company, Perry Plumbing Heating & Air, enlists some of its own team members as volunteers and donates the costs for tables, chairs, wash stations and toilet facilities at the site.
“It’s a truly amazing event,” he says. “I have witnessed firsthand the smiles and tears of joy from kids returning from their first flights. From the very first time I worked the event years ago, I was taken by it right away.”
According to Challenge Air Executive Director, April Culver, nearly 1,200 special needs children are flown each year during Fly Day events hosted in 10 different cities throughout the United States.
The media is invited to attend Challenge Air’s Fly Day in San Diego on Feb. 27. Event Coordinator Harley Perry will be available for interviews either in advance or on site. Interviews with participating pilots can also be arranged.
For more information, call 619-925-3794, or visit www.challengeair.org.